As I observed in my comment on Peter D’Errico’s article
on Indigenous Peoples at the UN
the uproar in some circles over statements made by the National
Congress of American Indians at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
this week is much ado about nothing. By this, I do not mean the issues
and relationships between indigenous nations and modern states don’t
need to be addressed, but simply that there is no benefit in resorting
to hyperbole or paranoia.
As I stated in my comment, the UN and its member states naturally do
not want to cede power to indigenous nations as represented directly by
their governing authorities or indirectly through organizations like the
National Congress of American Indians. They would much prefer to
continue paying lip service to the Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples, and limit its implementation to the Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues–a UN playpen for state-approved, foundation-funded
indigenous lobbyists. But as D’Errico says, that is not appropriate in
today’s world, and NCAI knows this. Instead, its members demand to be
treated as the governing authorities they are–not as NGOs.
Perhaps the UN itself is inadequate as an institution to accommodate
the needs of indigenous nations and modern states, and something new
needs to be created for conflict resolution and diplomatic initiatives
between nations and states. Once the UN accepts indigenous nations as
governing authorities and as appropriate partners in such an endeavor,
new relationships can be worked out, hopefully without all the hyperbole
and paranoia that now drive the discussion.
As I noted in my post
on the indigenous non-profit industrial complex in the United States,
paranoia-fueled witch hunts based on conspiracism are a distraction from
the business at hand. While they might be the bread and butter for some
indigenous NGOs dependent on Wall Street derivatives distributed
through neoliberal philanthropies like the Ford Foundation and Seventh
Generation Fund, these witch hunts function as impediments to the
indigenous peoples movement.
While not all the hyperbole and paranoia in the current disturbance
over who should and should not participate in the UN World Conference on
Indigenous Peoples, and about indigenous governing authorities status
at the UN, can be traced to American indigenous NGOs and what I call
professional protestors, a fair amount of it can. Indeed, the calculated
attack on the National Congress of American Indians and tribal leaders
at the March 1 North American Preparatory Meeting for the World
Conference, and the subsequent rumor mongering among the North American
Indigenous Peoples Caucus that hosted the meeting, is the basis of much
of the present storm.
For those unfamiliar with the players, NAIPC is a self-selected
clique of indigenous NGO lobbyists at the UN, who were approved by the
governments of Canada and the US and the UN to coordinate indigenous
peoples participation in implementing the Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples. Many of them are at least partially funded by the
Ford Foundation via intermediaries like the Seventh Generation Fund for
The NAIPC lobbyists and coordinators were hostile toward tribal
nations delegates sent to the meeting, and essentially sabotaged the
gathering in order to prevent the National Congress of American Indians
and tribal leaders from participating in the World Conference. The
provocateur who led the attack and later started the rumor mongering is
Glenn Morris, Ward Churchill’s protege at the University of Colorado.
The person who took up the attack after Morris laid the groundwork is
Kent Lebsock of Owe Aku International.
The coordinators of the meeting were Arthur Manuel from Canada and
Debra Harry from the United States. When NCAI and the tribal leaders
denounced the NAIPC meeting and report to the UN as fraudulent, Manuel
and Harry conducted a cover-up on the NAIPC list serv, as well as in
their report to the Permanent Forum. Manuel and Harry’s non-profits are
both funded by Seventh Generation Fund, as is Owe Aku.
While I have covered extensively the UN World Conference process and
the fiasco that resulted from these state-appointed coordinators, my
point is that the relationship between indigenous nations and modern
states can be negotiated, but not through present mechanisms. Using NGOs
as substitutes for indigenous governing authorities, or as
intermediaries, is inappropriate.
Good governance and indigenous sovereignty are the only way
indigenous self-determination can manifest itself. Emotional
gratification at being radical purists delivers no jurisdictional
results. Intelligent organizing and exercise of political power does.
When professional protestors promote conspiracy theories about
indigenous leaders, they undermine the indigenous movement. Anyone can
write radical rhetoric and pose as a revolutionary. Only real leaders
can govern effectively in ways that benefit indigenous nations and the
environments they revere.
As I pointed out in my comment
at Censored News
we want to be discerning in our analysis of the indigenous non-profit
industrial complex, so we can better understand its dynamics. Indigenous
activists sometimes develop a view of themselves and their networks as
an alternative to indigenous governments. This view, unfortunately,
undermines the indigenous movement by eliminating the prospect of
indigenous jurisdiction, and thus plays into the modern state philosophy
of indigenous nations termination. While not all indigenous activists
succumb to conspiracism, some — like Kent Lebsock of Owe Aku
International — do, and by engaging in paranoia-fueled witch hunts like
the one started by Glenn Morris, become an impediment to the movement.
In order to succeed, the indigenous movement requires indigenous
scholars and activists working alongside indigenous governing
authorities to challenge the status quo at the UN, as well as within its
member states. Harmonizing their voices is sometimes challenging, but
it has to be done.
Ford Foundation supports racial equality, but through its support of
the UN Millenium Development Goals, acts in a manner opposed to the
collective human rights of indigenous nations. As a neoliberal
philanthropy, Ford gives money for these purposes to academia and
governments, as well as grassroots activists via intermediaries like
First Peoples Worldwide and the Seventh Generation Fund.
As noted by Tonawanda Seneca traditional chief Darwin Hill at the UN
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues last week, constitutional and
customary indigenous governments must have a unique status in
international negotiations, if indigenous human rights are to be
respected. Along with consultative indigenous NGOs, this can provide a
means of indigenous voices being heard, without the corrupting influence
of Ford and other foundations. Ford’s influence doesn’t necessarily
imply a lack of integrity on the part of activists and officials
benefiting from its largesse; it simply means this dependency limits
strategies to reforming a state-centric framework that needs to be
opened up to indigenous nations and the indigenous governing authorities
exercising jurisdiction in their names.
As a professional protestor promoting conspiracism, Kent Lebsock
knows the smear campaign against tribal leaders — concocted by Glenn
Morris — is a fabrication to undermine NCAI. I sent all the relevant
information on the deceitful and treacherous
Morris to Lebsock long ago, so he knows he’s playing mind games. Probably for self-promotion.
Part of this hostility and delinquent behavior goes back to the
long-standing resentment internalized by radicals like Ward Churchill
and Glenn Morris for being rejected as frauds by both the American
Indian Movement and the National Congress of American Indians, but more
recently at the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, it’s become an
exercise is breathing their own exhaust, fueled by delusions of
grandeur where a faction of radicals like Lebsock view themselves as
guardians of the “North American Red Nations”. Ironically, these mighty
warriors attacking indigenous governing authorities are funded by the
very institutions they pretend to oppose.
Sadly, when these radical pious poseurs from the indigenous
non-profit industrial complex attack the top American Indian leaders
advancing tribal sovereignty, they hinder the indigenous peoples they
profess to protect. Such is the nature of indigenous fronts for capital.